As a follow up to an earlier post about feelings, I thought I’d share an anecdote. I’ve been working with a different therapist than the one mentioned in that article since shortly after I wrote it. That whole story and how to go about looking for a new therapist is a post in and of itself, which I plan to write one of these days. The therapist I’m currently working with is in a building which houses a lot of medically related offices, including a dentist. As I was waiting for the elevator, I saw a boy with his mom. I’m not the best at guessing kids’ ages, I’m guessing he’s around 4, give or take a year. He was holding a balloon from the dentist’s office tied to a new toothbrush. What struck me was the conversation he and his mom were having. She was asking him how he felt about the dentist. He said he didn’t like it. Understandable, none of us really like going to the dentists (no offense to dentists, the one I go to & the staff there are great). She started asking him a whole series of questions. Did he not like a little or a lot? Was it worse than he thought it was going to be or better? I realized she was teaching him about his feelings. How to feel them and how to manage them.
And that made me think about how my dental/doctor fears were dealt with as a child. At the positive end, I was occasionally bribed as in, if you don’t cry, I’ll get you x as a reward. But I was also told I was being a baby, etc. if I showed fear or whined about it. Also, maybe this is generational, but my parents would also tell me I shouldn’t be complaining because they couldn’t always afford to go to the dentist when they were kids and they both had dental problems as an adult because of it. I was lucky we could afford to go to the dentist regularly. So why was I complaining?
I though how great it was that this child has a parent who is willing to help him explore his feelings, even the “bad” ones. I’m trying to figure out how to do that for myself.
I have a bad fear of needles. I kicked a nurse when I was 2 or 3 when I was getting an immunization. I feel badly about that now and my mom made me apologize, which I think was the right thing to do. I tried to make a run for it when I was 5. Managed to get across the waiting room, out the door and halfway down the hallway before they caught up to me and brought me back. I’m not sure where I thought I was going. I didn’t drive and I had no money for carfare! 🙂
But my most embarrassing story re: needles involves a dentist. I never had Novocaine until I was 22 because of my fear of needles. The dentist I went to for most of my childhood/teens/young adulthood would tell me to raise my hand when I felt pain and he’d ease off on the drilling a bit and then resume. My senior year of college, I needed a cavity filled. I was on Spring Break and he was on vacation. The dentist filling in for him, didn’t know about the needle fear and went to give me a Novocaine injection. I panicked and and reflexively/defensively put up my hand. Only he was so close, I made the poor guy jab himself in the hand! I apologized profusely and felt really bad about it.
As a result of this, I warn anyone who may have to give me a shot or take blood. When I had twilight sedation for the removal of an impacted below the bone wisdom tooth (twice), I told them about this and volunteered to be restrained if they thought it was necessary for their safety. The first thing I asked when someone from the oral surgeon’s office called to see how I was doing was “did I hit anyone?” She laughed and said if I did, they would have been talking about it and no one was talking about a patient hitting anyone.
I don’t want anyone to get hurt! Usually, any dentists, nurses, physician assistants and doctors who hear these stories laugh. I’ve been going to my current dentist (different one than the scene of the crime) for about 14 years now. They know about my fear and they thought it would be a lot better for me pain wise if they could give me Novocaine. We’ve come up with a system where they let me know I’m about to get the shot and I close my eyes (seeing a needle go in or blood coming out actually makes me feel light headed and hot/cold). That alone would probably work, as looking away from the needle seems to help with other shots/blood draws. But it’s hard to look away from a needle going into your mouth! The hygienist is very sweet and reassuring. She’ll put her hand on my shoulder and tell me it’s almost over.
For the longest time, I’ve felt like a high maintenance wimp because of this. But really, what is so wrong with reassuring someone who’s fearful? As a result of this reassurance and system we’ve worked out, I’ve been able to get Novocaine. It reduces the pain I experience and makes it easier for the dentist and hygienist to do their jobs. By acknowledging my fear and working with people who understand it, it’s easier to manage and I don’t lash out from it as I’ve done in the past.